Motivation is a photography blog that discusses the creative aspects of photography. The posts will include thoughts about images and their interpretation, photographers and their work, technique, workflow, my ongoing projects, and perhaps even the occasional off topic rant.

Creative Post Processing For Projects

In my last post I spoke about achieving visual consistency between images that are part of a unified project. In this post, I thought I would give an example of the ‘creative processing’ that I used in the series I have been working on. The first image below is the photograph after Lightroom processing and looks like the actual area of the statuette being photographed. The second image is the top one after I finished adding the creative touches to it in order to make it look like I envisioned the project. One isn’t necessarily better or worse than the other……just different.

Meanwhile I am very much on track in terms of making this project into a pdf and a folio. Thanks for following me through this process!

Before Creative Processing © Howard Grill

Before Creative Processing © Howard Grill

After Creative Processing © Howard Grill

After Creative Processing © Howard Grill


Fitting Into A project

A few weeks ago I wrote about working in photographic projects, and had discussed a uniformity in look when putting a project together. At that time I had noted that:

“I don’t consider an image ‘done’ or work towards ‘completely finishing’ an image before moving on to the next one in the project. For a project to be cohesive there needs to be some consistency in style. Therefore, when I reach the goal number of images, I plan to review them, see which ones work together, and finish editing the images together as a group to ensure there is some type of consistency and visual flow among them.”

I thought that I would give an example of that. My project photographing the statuettes yielded images that were similar in that they tended to be frame filling macro photos of portions of the statuettes. If this were, say, a landscape project, then the landscape in various weather conditions and lighting would be most appropriate, but in this type of project there needed (or at least to me there needs to be) some sort of tonal consistency.

As I was putting the photos together, I could see that most were in the yellow to yellowish red tonal range with a certain luminosity. This particular image was one that I liked, but it stood out because when I had processed it outside the idea of a cohesive project it had more of a yellow to greenish yellow tone and less brightness to it:

Statuette before tonal changes © Howard Grill

Statuette before tonal changes © Howard Grill

After changing the tones to better fit with other images in the project, the same image looked like this:

Statuette after tonal changes © Howard Grill

Statuette after tonal changes © Howard Grill

One is not better or worse than the other. In fact, I suspect that each could stand on its own. It’s just that when put into the company of the other images in the project the second version is a better and more cohesive ‘fit’. That is why, when working in projects, I don’t necessarily consider an image finished until it takes its place and stands among the other images in the series.

The Queen - Project Update

Several weeks back I had written a piece about working in photographic projects. I am pleased that I am meeting all my self-imposed deadlines. As per the suggestions in that post, I started with a plan for a dozen images and waited to see where that took me. I now have 14 images in the project, after which I felt that I had run out of both ideas and the desire to keep photographing the statuettes. So the project ended up ‘telling me’ when it was over.

I am now at the stage where I am ‘fine tuning’ the already processed images to give them a consistent look. Some of them had vintage type edges while others did not. Some were leaning towards a greener yellow tone and others towards a redder yellow. Of course, there wouldn’t be anything wrong with edges or no edges or greener vs redder yellows in any individual image, but that is one of the things about working in projects……I believe there should be some type of stylistic similarity that pulls it together. So in the ‘fine’tuning’, I am trying to give them that consistency. The tones need not be exactly the same nor does each and every image need to have the exact same edge effect, but, in my mind, some consistency helps hold them together as a group.

Once that is complete (the end of October was my deadline) I will be working on putting the project into a presentable folio and making a PDF type e-book.

And now, may I present…..The Queen:

The Queen

The Queen


Daydream In Red

I photographed this scene during a few days I had off and was able to go out with some of my 'photo buddies' to shoot fall colors. The nice thing about going out to photograph with friends is that you feed of each other, sharing both enthusiasm and creativity. When I saw this row of trees with their red leaves I made several different types of abstract images using zoom and multiple exposure techniques, but none of them seemed to convey the 'dreamlike' feeling I was after. So instead I started with one of my 'straight shots' and got to work trying to make it look like the feeling I had in mind.....that feeling of waking up in a hazy dream. The final print was processed using negative clarity, some glow from Color Efex Pro, and two different texture applications. Now it looks the way it felt.

"Daydream In Red"    © Howard Grill

By the way, the title and feel of the image was inspired by a song entitled "Daydream In Blue" by the British electronic group "I Monster". For those fans of the TV show "Mr. Robot", the song was used in the opening show of the new second season (great show though admittedly a little creepy).

OK then, Daydream In Blue.....this is the harder to find slow acoustic-y version which I prefer (yes, it is a bit of a lusty song :)  Oh, and remember that if you get these posts via e-mail the videos don't seem to come along so you will have to go to the actual blog post itself if you care to watch/listen!

And a bit of Mr. Robot, Season amazing show:

How To Resize And Prepare Photos For Web And Projection

Recently, some friends have asked me how to prepare photos for web viewing, projecting, or submission to various publications after being asked, for example, to submit images that are 1024x768, 8 bit, jpeg format, in the sRGB color space. The easiest way to explain this is to I made a short instructional video for them. I thought I would share it on the blog.

For the best viewing experience, click the little gear icon to the bottom right of the video once it starts, set the quality for 1080p, and watch in full screen mode. If your browser won't play it full screen, just click on the youtube link at the bottom right of the video to view it on youtube, where full screen should be attainable. I hope the information is helpful.

Topaz DeNoise 6 And Canon 5DsR Noise

Back in October I wrote about a five minute exposure I had made at Pete's Lake in Michigan's Upper Peninsula using my Canon 5DsR camera. That exposure was quite noisy because of its duration and if I wanted a usable image I had to leave the island quite dark, almost black, in order to mask the strong noise. I didn't really like the way it looked and thought the image might not be able to be saved.

Recently, Topaz Labs came out with a new version of their DeNoise product/plug-in. I already own a couple of noise removal programs, including the prior Topaz version, but decided to upgrade to their newest.  This version is a whole different ball game.

There is an incredible amount of control available within the program.  An excellent 40 minute video is all you really need to get a good grasp on how it works. So I watched it and gave DeNoise 6 a try with this immensely challenging image after I wasn't happy with the results that other programs gave me (see that original post).

The ground rules:

  • I duplicated and reprocessed the image from the same starting point but did noise reduction first and then processed it the way I wanted it to look in terms of the tonality of the trees and island.
  • I took the original, noisy image from that post back in October and, without applying noise removal, used a curve and a bit of saturation, to bring it to just about where the newly processed version was in terms of appearance.
  • The crops below are 100% but converted to 8 bit jpeg and sRGB color space; I didn't notice any dramatic changes resulting from this. 
  • Disclaimer: there were residual white specks following the DeNoise process that were present on the original (ie, they were not artifacts induced by DeNoise). I would not call the processing a success if these remained or if I had to work for hours on manual removal. I tried the Photoshop dusk and speck removal filter and it took care of nearly all these specks in a second.

So here is the newly processed image:


Pete's Lake, 5 Minute Exposure    © Howard Grill

Directly below is a 100% crop, as described above, from the upper left hand corner of the image without Topaz DeNoise processing. 

Upper Left Corner, Before Topaz DeNoise 6

Here is the same crop after noise removal. I was pleased that you could see the gentle tones of the cloud streaking. Removal of the noise actually made it more evident.

Upper Left Corner, After Topaz DeNoise 6

Below is a 100% crop from the water.  It's even worse than the upper left corner in terms of noise. NASTY!!!

Section Of Water, Before Topaz DeNoise 6

And below is the DeNoise 6 version of the same location in the image:

Section Of Water, After Topaz DeNoise 6

Finally, we come to the very distant trees in the shadows, which I significantly lightened compared to how the photograph came out of the camera. Note that at baseline there is some lack of sharpness, but this is explained by the fact that the trees are probably a half mile away and that the exposure is five minutes long with a gentle breeze blowing those branches.

Here is the original version:

Trees On Distant Isalnd, Before Topaz DeNoise 6

And the DeNoise version (after Photoshop dust and scratch removal was also used; see above).  It appears to me that there is perhaps a very, very slight softening of the image in comparison, which is pretty impressive for this degree of noise removal. In my opinion it has taken the image to a state where it is quite usable. Given that this is a 50 MP file the size of those trees on even a large print is going to be small.

Trees On Distant Island, After Topaz DeNoise 6

Definitely a worthwhile purchase in my opinion!

Canon 5DsR And Long Exposure Noise

In my last post, I presented one of my favorite images from my trip to Michigan's Upper Peninsula.  As much as I really like the image there is a problem with it.  It is a problem that is not visible to anyone looking at the image on the internet or at a small image size, but it is one that I suspect will limit my ability to make a very large print of the photograph as it is currently processed, which is something I was hoping to be able to do.

So what is this problem?  The answer is digital noise during the five minute long exposure. I will confess to being a bit of a 'pixel peeper', but really only am concerned about issues that would affect the final print. But before I discuss anything, allow me to show you what I mean.

Color and Luminance Noise In The Brightened Shadows

Color and Luminance Noise In The Brightened Shadows

The portion of the image above is a 100% crop from the dark island/tree area of the photo AFTER noise reduction using Imagenomic Noiseware, and one can still see both color and luminance noise that is fairly marked. Now, it is true that I raised (brightened) the shadows a bit, which would tend to accentuate noise, so I will also show you a 100% crop from the straight out of camera image without brightening the shadows. Here the noise is minimal.

Pete's Lake Crop Right Out Of Camera

Pete's Lake Crop Right Out Of Camera

Perhaps I was expecting too much to be able to brighten the trees in order to to show some detail and color and perhaps the noise is purely related to the 5DsR's pixel pitch (small) and dynamic range as opposed to the length of the exposure.  That will take some experimentation on my part to figure out but, while that may well be the case, there is still luminance noise in the sky visible in this 100% crop after noise reduction:

Luminance Noise In Processed Sky

Luminance Noise In Processed Sky

As one would expect, this brighter area is certainly less noisy than the shadows, but is still noisier than I would expect and noisier than I have seen in my shorter duration exposures.

So what does all this mean?  These are just early thoughts and so I am not really sure yet.  It will require some further experimentation to sort out the effects of long exposure vs the sensor's dynamic range.  I find this interesting, as it is something fellow photographer Cole Thompson has written about in a post entitled "5DSr Noise Issues".  

Of course, this doesn't necessarily mean I can't make a large print. The noise might not be visible in a moderate sized print. I could make the print with less processing and leave the shadows darker than I had in my processed version, which would hide the noise.  There are possibilities, those they are slightly different than was my vision for the final image.  Also, when doing long exposures I could expose to the right more in order to eliminate noise, assuming that the scene is not as contrasty as this.

Please don't get the wrong idea.  I am extraordinarily happy with my 5DsR as it is able to record amazing detail and color with ample pixels to crop as needed, but I suppose one has to obey the laws of physics and smaller pixels are going to deliver more noise.  Unless of course you have a Nikon. Or a Sony........only kidding. Sort of :)